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Pathways initiative pulls out the stops

Teachers will be the prime targets of a huge PR exercise promoting work-related learning. Officials also hope to bring Welsh employers on side by posting a "your country needs you" message.

Details of how officials plan to overcome scepticism towards the 14-19 learning pathways initiative were revealed at a conference last week. John Pugsley, project manager for the 14-19 action plan for the new strategy, told delegates at Merthyr college, Merthyr Tydfil, and three other venues via a video link that a task-force had been set up to bring more home-grown businesses on board.

But he said parents, pupils and even teachers would also be bombarded with literature in early February as officials go on a major PR offensive to sell their plans.

The move follows damning reports that employers are not sufficiently supportive or aware of the 14-19 initiative in Wales. The action plan, which contains 110 recommendations to phase in by 2010, aims to give young people more choice of vocational and work-led programmes.

The aim is to keep more 16-year-olds in education or training. Consultation on the proposals began this week. The goodwill of businesses in offering work placements to young people is seen as pivotal to success.

But Peter McGowan, Wales's vocational skills champion, was so worried about lukewarm responses from industry before Christmas that he claimed the initiative was on a knife edge.

He called for an immediate marketing campaign to show employers the importance of the skills-based plan in creating a new generation of wealth-creators.

"We need a high-profile ICT system to ensure all interest groups are fully aware and updated," said Mr Pugsley, speaking at the conference organised by 14-19 learning improvement body Dysg.

He said one of the most important tasks was giving young people access to skills-based and vocational learning, coupled with ongoing reform of the national curriculum.

At present, 240 people are being trained as learning coaches, who will help young people following work-related education. But some teachers fear the proposals won't be funded adequately, and there is confusion over how it will work.

The Assembly government wants 95 per cent of young people to be ready for highly skilled employment by the age of 25.

Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, said entrepreneurial skills were essential for all young people.

Responses to "Careers and the World of Work" must be sent in by March 30

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